A time of great need? Also an opportunity…

Corporate sponsorship.  Corporate partner.  Benefactor.  Donor.  In-kind sponsor.  Presented by….. 

There are many worthwhile causes in our communities, regionally and nationally.  Requests to companies can be from modest – to provide food for an event, for instance to many thousands of dollars to be designated a presenting sponsor.  My favorites are sponsorship levels that take names such as Gold, Silver, Bronze, and the coveted Platinum!  Coming from many years in the nonprofit sector, I know how important it is to have these sponsors partner with you to produce your event, or run your program.  You basically couldn’t do it without them by your side, with their checkbook. 

But what can you gain, as a company, or large nonprofit such as a hospital, by partnering with a worthy cause?  First, a mission related cause shows you care at a different level than profit making.  Pharmaceutical companies come to mind – they often sponsor breast cancer walks or skin cancer screenings.  Hospitals sponsor many of the major disease events – the heart association, cancer society.  Nursing homes and assisted living centers show their eleemosynaryconcerns by providing funds to the local Alzheimer’s walk.  They all may provide their employees to do their own fundraising as well.

How can you get the most out of your corporate sponsorship?  Today it is much more of an opportunity than sending in a check and wanting a letter or receipt in return.  Tax deductions are almost never the motivating factor.  These are my suggestions when you are asked and you are inclined to give.

How can you maximize your dollar investment? First, decide mutually how you will be recognized.  Provide them a logo – in color and in black and white.  If you are the presenting sponsor, can you negotiate naming rights to the event?  The Tupperware Triathalon?  This will usually mean adding and sometimes even doubling the corporate gift.  Where will your logo appear?  On all materials?  Will you have signage at the event – if so, provide them with your own banner to hang.  If you are going to have your corporate logo on a t-shirt, make sure it is above the waist or negotiate an arm/shoulder placement.  If you are sponsoring a walking or running event, instead of hanging your banner with the plethora of others, ask to sponsor the water station – every individual participant will come by and you can maximize your exposure by making it THE best and most FUN water stop ever!  Dancing characters, great giveaways, happy greeters….really do it up. 

A word about your employees.  Why not maximize your involvement in the event by asking your employees to team up to support the cause.  They can raise money, this is true.  But it can also be a great team building, motivating activity.  Better than a company picnic, more productive than a dress down Friday.  Offer company incentives – a cherished parking space, a day off (or half a day), the opportunity to go out to lunch with the boss, or have the boss bring you coffee for a week at your desk. 

The idea is this:  nonprofits need you, they truly do.  Your sponsorship dollars allow events to be successful – without it goals would never be made.  The idea is also this:  you need them.  You need to show your community spirit, concern, devotion to causes more than the bottom line.  So – maximize your involvement.  Give generously of your dollar; of your time; of your employees.  Reward everyone.  Have fun.  There was a survey once that said employees wanted to be thanked more than receive a raise.  Engagement, recognition.  That’s what it is about for many good workers who are working harder and longer for your bottom line than ever before. 

When asked – give generously!  Help to open the doors to companies you deal with.  Make it a team challenge….

A recent sponsorship I worked on was a very modest one – a financial institution was asked to provide books for a nutrition related activity in a classroom of a local school.  Not only did they provide the books, they invited the media to attend, they sent a staff member to take photos for their newsletter, they contributed plastic bags with their logo on them for the books to be taken home and in those bags was a brochure promoting a young savers’ club.  Value?  A few hundred dollars.  Opportunity?  For the author, she was a bit hit!  For the children?  They received a beautiful, educational book.  For the school?  They felt like superstars providing an extra program with no money left in their budgets.  The financial institution?  Better than an ad, a commercial, or a direct mail – they brought young savers info directly into the home, and right to the parent. 

Next time a sponsorship request comes before you, think about its potential.  Yes, it is a another request for your dollar, but could it be the best “advertising” or promotional campaign you’ve done in a long time?  I bet it just might be. 

So – as you think about the year ahead and your demographic audience, think about the nonprofit which targets that same demographic.  Pick up the phone and call them.  Find out how you can become involved.  You will be doing your job right out of the box.  And your efforts will be multiplied as you help in a time of austerity and often very great need.

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